It was MS Dhoni in 2009. It’s Dale Steyn in 2010.
Sachin Tendulkar ran him close, hitting seven Test hundreds, but it can’t be a batsman every year. Graeme Swann took more Test wickets, but 44 of them were against Bangladesh and a spattered Pakistan side that barely ever looked like limping to 200.
Dale Steyn, however. Dale Steyn has been an unqualified success. The Test figures (and who cares about any others?) are 60 wickets at 21.41 in 11 matches. Those are statistics from a long gone era, but that’s barely half the story.
So far, in his Test career, Dale Steyn has taken a wicket every 39.7 balls. Shane Bond and Steve Finn are in the same ballpark, but they can only boast of 133 wickets between them. Steyn has taken 232.
He is, quite simply, the most destructive bowler of modern times. In the all-time list, only George Lohmann has taken 100 or more wickets at a faster rate and he played in the 1890s.
Here, there and everywhere
Lohmann played on a grand total of nine grounds over the course of his Test career. Dale Steyn played on 11 in 2010.
He went through England at Johannesburg; India at Nagpur; West Indies at Port of Spain; Pakistan at Abu Dhabi; and through India again at Durban. If Dale Steyn played a World XI on the moon, you’d bet on him getting a five-for. Even if there weren’t any fielders.
The Nagpur demolition was the most memorable. We’re brought up to believe that you need great spinners to succeed in India, but after South Africa had made 558-6, Steyn went and took 7-51, unzipping his flies and urinating in the face of conventional wisdom.
So that’s why he’s Lord Megachief of Gold?
No, not really. Dale Steyn is Lord Megachief of Gold 2010 because he makes every Test match he plays in exciting.
When wickets aren’t falling in a Test, the match isn’t progressing. You can score as many runs as you like, but TEST CRICKET IS ABOUT TAKING WICKETS. Steyn drives Test matches. Without him, they’re far less likely to go somewhere.
Plus, he means it. He bloody means it. During the Cape Town Test against England in January, we wrote:
“If you saw Dale Steyn’s celebration when he dismissed Kevin Pietersen on day four, that was quite something; that was a fast bowler on the verge of combustion, so full of adrenaline-fuelled power that he could have towed the continents back into place to reform Pangaea.”
He is hell-bent on taking wickets and it shows. That is watchable in itself. In the same match, he bowled the most spectacular spell to Paul Collingwood with a new ball. It was mystifyingly unsuccessful, but as a passage of play, it was as memorable as anything that’s happened all year.
No-one is doing more for Test cricket than Dale Steyn right now.